The great disruptor is back with another brainstorm to make a bundle in print with the Nov. 26 launch of Nextmag – a gloss four-colour monthly targeting audiences in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.Michael Hollett and partner Alice Klein embraced when they launched Now in 1981.
Unlike Now, Next is not to be a political disruptor. It’s designed to smartly capture the next month’s entertainment amusements in departments offering news bytes and features about music, fashion, food, alcohol, gaming and cannabis. The tightly edited package is intentionally upbeat in its delivery and penned and illustrated by a masthead of next-gen talents.
But, before Next and after Now.
Hollett sold his partnership in Now to Klein in 2016, likely having seen the writing on the wall with an escalating demise in advertising. Klein shouldered the withering weekly for another three years before selling to Media Central Corp. for $2 million.
In its heyday, the publication could have likely sold for $20 million.
Moving forward, in May 2019, it was announced that Hollett had tossed his hat in the ring with BeatRoute, western Canada's music-loving urban lifestyle mag that had designs on creating a new beachhead in Toronto.
Hollett got cold feet after the announcement and reached into himself to ponder ‘Now, what’s Next?'
It was then that the gods spoke to him, first with the announcement that The Star was collapsing its entertainment section, and then with Now magazine’s new ownership sending a letter to shareholders in June 2020, stating that the publication was eliminating “its focus on venues and arts and, instead, driving a focus on health, education, finance, esports and cannabis.”
A follow-up clarification about the editorial focus attempted to mitigate that unnecessary faux pas–but Hollett/Klein’s hallmark deep entertainment coverage in Now was already long gone.
But back to now: In today’s online, ear-bud world, why is the ‘Z’ generation going to adopt an old-form medium?
In a phone interview, Hollett says his pitch for Next was similar to that used in selling Now magazine to advertising agencies. He asked them to hold off on deciding whether to back it until they had consulted with their kids.
His gambit worked like a charm then.
It turns out the same is true today. The kids loved the concept behind Next.
Most had never read a magazine.
Some had never heard of Now.
Next, to them, sounded like the new now!
It was the hippest of the hip, a back to the future era all about them.
It was… well, the new best thing.
The new ‘next’ best thing.
A tactile medium that speaks to them and is ‘oh, so old school it’s cool.’
Next's distribution is a combo of location pick-up points and home delivery services. Order in a pizza or dim sum and your delivery comes with a copy of Next. Smart, efficient, and by-passes a lot of print distribution's hard costs.
As for investors, Hollett has lined up a mix of uber wealth, two blue-chip media companies (U.S. and Canadian) and a small number of well-heeled Canadian musicians. In the 'A' list are Gary Slaight, Slaight Music and Hollett.
Gambling on the next big thing is always a gamble. Still, Hollett’s connections, understanding of disruptive media and winsome smile helped convince some powerful allies in his next adventure. That its template is easily licensable to potential partners outside Canada must have also been a selling point.
He tells me it will be interactive, meaning the web editions will enhance the print properties; more intriguing is his suggestion that Next will incorporate elements from The Beano and Viz, two wildly popular British comic mags that cheekily celebrate the bawdy banter and blushworthy antics of their respective roster of colourful characters who never fail to titillate their weekly audiences.
Print media has been taking it on the chin with ad revenues dropping through the floor and ageing and ailing readerships that are a difficult sell. It will be curious to see if Hollett’s vision for his next adventure can upend the premise that print is dead and capture a youthful audience as Now once did. There's the fact too that Hollett has three generations of printers ink in his bloodline. It's a medium he is comfortable with, and he doesn't have the leaden weight that the big corporations do.
Next may not be disruptive as Now was, but expect its contents to come loaded with cheek and impertinence and a measure of tempered absurdity.